TAMPA, Florida- Police say 31-year-old Anthony Matthews did a horrible thing last month. They say he forced his way into the car of a woman parked in the 1300 block of East 8th Avenue in Ybor City on December 22nd and raped her.
But the public was never notified about the crime.
"I think it's ridiculous that they wouldn't let the public know that," said Ryan Funderburk after 10 News told him about the crime.
"I have a right to know if there is a dangerous criminal ... out there," said Melanie Smith, who is visiting the Bay area from South Dakota.
"It's not all roses and ponies anymore like it used to be, and people need to be aware of their surroundings, and they need, whether it be Ybor or whatnot ... about that (kind of stuff)," added Tonya Medina.
Detectives say Matthews held his 19-year-old victim against her will for up to 10 hours, driving around town before he jumped out of the car on Tampa's north side.
DNA on December 31st identified Matthews as the attacker and he was taken into custody that night. But that wasnine days after the sexual assault. So why didn't police notify the public that a rapist was on the loose?
"That's a great question. You can argue about that question all the time, it's one we ask," said assistant police chief John Newman.
Newman told 10 News there are several reasons for the department's decision, including making sure a crime was indeed committed, not really having a description to put out, not wanting to panic the public, and ultimately feeling the crime was not germane to Ybor City.
But Newman stressed the case was worked on 24/7.
"So it's a question we ask ourselves. We asked it every day, 'Do we think we're getting closer?' We weren't waiting for the (DNA) hit, we had a lot of boots on the ground, but there would have come a time, let's say (DNA) didn't come back, there would have been a time we would have had to put out some limited information. But that's a decision that we wrestled with because it is truly a balancing act, absolutely."
Authorities say Matthews' DNA was in the state system because he's been arrested nearly 20 times. In fact he was just released from jail on Nov.28 after allegedly committinga robbery. Police say they are now trying to figure out if Matthews was involved in other crimes while he was out, including other sexual assaults.
He remains in the Hillsborough County jail without bail.